It’s tough to be a first-round pick and not have high expectations.
Thus, expectations long have been high for 2015 first-rounders Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril.
The two, as well as Jake DeBrusk, were taken in a row by the Boston Bruins when they had three consecutive picks during the first round of the 2015 Draft. DeBrusk quickly became a useful second-line winger in the NHL, while Senyshyn and Zboril have taken a little longer to develop.
Senyshyn has six games of NHL experience, four of which came this season in a stint that looked pretty good until he got injured. But upon recovering and returning to the AHL, Providence head coach Jay Leach has liked what he’s seen from the speedy winger.
“I saw speed, I saw a willingness to get to the net, I saw a willingness to be an F1 on the forecheck, and then with that came some offensive opportunities and he started to cash in a bit,” Leach said Monday on a conference call. “I know it’s tough, it’s his third year pro and I think people tend to — and I get it it’s professional hockey and there’s expectations there — but in our mind and in Seny’s mind he’s exactly where he is and needs to be, and he’s starting to really develop. I think he had a pretty nice stint in Boston a couple months before, unfortunately got injured. But he was getting right back to that place really as we ended. So we’re hopeful that it’ll continue, it’s fascinating to watch. Me personally as a coach, I’ve had a great time this year watching some of these Year 3 guys, him, Zboril, come into their own. And they’ve really put their time in, it’s been something fun for me to watch.”
Senyshyn, like Zboril and DeBrusk, will be a restricted free agent this offseason. And in the event the NHL season resumes, there’s a good chance he will be one of Boston’s “Black Aces” for the postseason. That’ll give him a chance to make an impact with the big club in one form or another, something he deserves after catching fire late in the AHL season, only for it to be paused and eventually canceled.
“We were very excited for where Zach was going, really through that stretch the last five, six weeks,” Leach said. “I think we’ve talked about Seny quite a bit, and sometimes I think, our staff included, you tend to forget how young some of these players are. He’s just turning 23, players develop in different ways and at different timetables.”
Maybe something that benefitted Senyshyn was playing with some more seasoned linemates in Brendan Gaunce and Brendan Woods, two guys who have played professionally for a while.
“Seny found a home with Gaunce and Woods, they were really an up-and-down line that could do a lot of things,” Leach said. “They had some speed with Seny and Woody, and then Gaunce was able to compliment them with some heady play and Seny was starting to score. He was getting to the dirty areas, and they were a heavy forechecking line and, for me, he was finding an identity. But I think we all somewhat would speculate that was his identity: Being a big guy that can get to places quick and obviously get to the front of the net and get those opportunities. It seemed like he was really starting to put it together down the last five or six weeks.”
As for Zboril, he’s been in an interesting spot because the Bruins have been logjammed at left defense for a while.
Zboril was brought into the organization at a time when Matt Grzelcyk really was establishing himself, while Boston had a few mainstays in Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. The signing of John Moore further limited Zboril’s opportunity, as did the growth of Jeremy Lauzon coupled with Urho Vaakanainen signing his entry-level deal.
So the truth of the matter is Zboril got pushed down the depth chart, and historically was outplayed by someone else. And though that was the case at times this past season, Zboril has been regarded as one of Providence’s best defensemen this season, especially in the waning weeks of the campaign.
“Zboril, really very much like Senyshyn, the last 12 games or 15 games became probably our best defenseman overall,” Leach said. “His ability to move the puck cleanly is just, there’s not many that can do it at our level. He was paired with (Josiah) Didier for most of it, and I think Dids’ competitive juices kind of wore off on Z and kind of ignited a bit and before you knew it he was a real force down low.”
Like Leach indicated, both are young players, and everyone develops at their own speed. They’re both just 23 years old and certainly shouldn’t be written off.